World Oceans Month: Western Governors Alliance on Ocean Health

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Driftwood on a Washington beach. Photograph courtesy of wiki commons.

By Neva Knott

It’s still World Oceans Month, and to celebrate, I’ve continued my investigation into ocean health in my home state, Washington, on the US West Coast. I began by looking at agency websites–Department of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, and Washington Sea Grant, most specifically. I also took a closer look at the Marine Resource Committees and Marine Spatial Planning programs I found via Surfrider and wrote about last week. While reading these sites, I was impressed and enthused by the thought, concern, research, expertise, and collaboration drawn upon to create the protection programs for Washington’s oceans and coastal ecosystems.

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Marine Spatial Planning map. Image courtesy of NOAA.

When I read all the policy stuff, I keep my eye open for the action piece–I want to know what’s happening on the ground, after policy is set and administrative groups have been formed. On the agency websites, I noticed a gap in action between 2007/2008 and now, presumably due to recession-driven budget cuts, but I pushed on. Finally, I found the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health, an organization committed to collaborative efforts between California, Oregon, and Washington. Such collaboration is an effective strategy for agencies when individual budgets are slashed. This alliance was formed in September 2006, to promote:

  • Clean coastal waters and beaches
  • Healthy ocean and coastal habitats
  • Effective ecosystem-based management
  • Reduced impacts of offshore development
  • Increased ocean awareness and literacy among the region’s citizens
  • Expanded ocean and coastal scientific information, research, and monitoring
  • Sustainable economic development of coastal communities

What I find encouraging about this list of goals is the ecosystems approach in combination with the realities of ocean/coastal usage and problems. When an ecosystems approach is truly implemented, people, other species, place, culture, natural resources, and economics dependent thereupon are sustained. Simply put, taking the ecosystems approach promotes the triple bottom line and supports people, profits, and the planet.

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Triple Bottom Line. Image courtesy of wiki media.

Here in Washington, our culture of place and many livelihoods are dependent upon the sustainability of natural resources. We boast one of the healthiest salmon fisheries in the world, and are one of the best shellfish growing regions. Crab fishing is a viable industry, and clam-digging a regional pastime, one I’ve enjoyed since I was old enough to walk.

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Digging for razor clams. Photograph courtesy of WDFW.

While California, Oregon, and Washington each relate to the Alliance’s goals in a regionally-specific and ecosystems-specific manner, there are common factors that affect all three states. These include sea level rise, algal blooms, marine debris (tons of stuff floats our way from the Fukushima disaster), oil spill prevention and response, marine vessel emissions, marine invasive species, offshore drilling, ocean energy as renewable energy source, working waterfronts and sustainable coastal communities, and habitat for marine species.

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Cannon Beach, Oregon. Photograph courtesy of wiki commons.

As a way to keep the public informed about our oceans, the WCGA has created the West Coast Ocean Data Portal. The Portal is quite user-friendly and the information found there discernible. It is research-based data, categorized as biological–habitats, species, and taxa; human–boundaries, economy, infrastructure, and management; and physical–atmosphere, earth, and water. The Portal is kept current and elucidates the interconnectedness of the systems that create the triple bottom line.

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California’s Pacific Coast Highway. Photograph courtesy of wiki commons.

 

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